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"Aliens of two minds among us."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: If and when "Before We Vanish" makes its way to physical media in the United States, I hope that the companion television series that director Kiyoshi Kurosawa did alongside it will also be made available, not just because it's more from one of Japan's greatest genre filmmakers and because the movie is good enough that I'd like to see it expanded, but because Kurosawa's adaptation of Tomohiro Maekawa's play has a combination of evolving personal stakes and escalating suspense that has recently worked extremely well on that medium, though it's just as impressive how well he makes it work in just over two hours." (more)
"The Grating Dictator"
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Michael Caine has been a bona-fide movie star for more than a half-century and if he ever decides to formally retire from his chosen profession, it will inspire an outpouring of love and affection tinged with no small amount of regret from film fans around the world over the possibility of a cinematic world without him, to be immediately followed by arguments among those very same fans about which of the dozens of roles he has played on the screen were the best. Put it this way, one could strike the seven films that he has made in recent years with Christopher Nolan—the three “Dark Knight” movies, “The Prestige,” “Inception,” “Interstellar” and a vocal cameo in “Dunkirk”—the films that earned him his two Supporting Actor Oscars, “Hannah and Her Sisters” and “The Cider House Rules” and the four that earned him Best Actor nominations (“Alfie,” “Sleuth,” “Educating Rita” and “The Quiet American”) from consideration completely and it would still be difficult to create a Top 10 list of his most notable performances without leaving a lot of worthy ones by the wayside. (That said, anyone who attempts such a thing and manages to overlook his underrated turns in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and “Blood and Wine” and his masterful work in “Dressed to Kill” do so at their peril.)" (more)
"Ready Player Yawn"
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "When “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” hit theaters in the summer of 2001, it was not the first film to appear based on a video game property—games such as “Super Mario Brothers,” “Mortal Kombat,” “Street Fighter,” “Double Dragon” and “Wing Commander” had already hit multiplexes through adaptations that were met with critical derision and, with the exception of “Mortal Kombat,” which did well enough to inspire a couple of sequels, commercial indifference. However, it was the first one that arrived with the potential of actually being a good movie—it was made with serious money (the budget was said to be around $100 million at a time when that was still considered a sizable chunk of change), it was based on a game whose central character, a glamorous adventurer—imagine a cross between Indiana Jones and an exceptionally badass Spice Girl—by the name of Lara Croft and it had arguably the perfect person to slip into the character’s trademark shorts and boots in Angelina Jolie, fresh off of her Supporting Actress Oscar win for “Girl Interrupted” and at the apex of her screen stardom. And yet, when it finally came out, the end result, although a box-office hit, was pretty much the dictionary definition of the word “meh”—an utterly anonymous action narrative that viewers forgot almost as soon as the end credits began and which not even Jolie’s undeniable charisma, intelligence and sex appeal could not quite overcome the been there, done that feeling that permeated the whole thing. This sense carried over to the sequel, “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life” (2003), which was a marginally better film but still not an especially worthwhile one and this time around, audiences stayed away and a potential franchise just withered away." (more)
"Better than many sci-fi adventures made with what's at hand."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: There's something almost bizarrely endearing about the limited resources visible for the production of "Darken", like the filmmakers looked at their script and the vacated building that they had to shoot in and said, okay, we're just going to do this, and if we do this well enough, the audience will supply the reasons why this all makes sense on their own. In this case, they do just well enough to intrigue." (more)
"Delightfully daffy, whether you call if caveman football or soccer."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... "There's a good chance that the children for whom "Early Man" was made have never heard of its creator's other work - Nick Park's last short work as a director was ten years ago, and his last feature three years before that. He's kept busy as a producer, sure, but if I tell my nieces that "Early Man" comes from the guy who made "Wallace & Gromit", it'll mean nothing to them, even beyond how they may not really get that specific people make movies. Nevertheless, it's good for those of us who are old enough to remember to see him back, and the kids will really appreciate it even if they don't know he's made things before." (more)
"The rare time when a sequel to a bad movie makes sense."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: Give "Beyond Skyline" credit; it doesn't dink around before getting to the good stuff the way that the first one did. It's still a pretty dumb movie, but it piles stuff on like crazy, and you can't go terribly far wrong combining brains being ripped out of skulls and Iko Uwais fight scenes." (more)
"Not exactly licensed to thrill."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "The taller for "Agent Mr. Chan" offered the not-entirely-original, but still fun, premise of an obvious James Bond surrogate who got old and lame, which isn't really what it delivers; those scenes are taken out of one segment of the movie, and the actual way that's played isn't nearly as funny as what was sold. It winds up being one of a number of pieces that don't quite fit together, making for a generic spy spoof that just gets a few laughs." (more)
"A Literary Wrinkle Flattened By The Blockbuster Iron."
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "I suppose that I should confess upfront before getting into the eagerly awaited film version of “A Wrinkle in Time” that I have never read the award-winning 1962 science-fantasy book by Madeline L’Engle on which it was based. This is not meant to be a slam on the book by any means—fantasy fiction has never been one of my favorite literary areas and when I was 10, which is probably the optimum age for reading it, and reading way beyond my years, I was too busy trying to puzzle out exactly what happened during the driveway scene in “The World According the Garp”—and I know plenty of people who have themselves read and cherished it over the years. Therefore, I cannot really answer the question of how the film is in comparison to the book in any way. However, I can tell you what the film is like judged strictly on its own terms and merits and in that regard, it is an unmitigated disaster of such epic proportions that it almost—almost—begins to exert a strange sort of fasciation as you ponder whether it is just a massive botch of an adaptation or if generations of readers have been wrong all along and the story was crap right from the get-go." (more)
"Yet another shady organization making better-than-usual super-soldiers."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: "Kill Order" is very close to the line between where one stops worrying about the actual quality of a script or the performances because it's the physical action that is going to deliver the return one's ticket price (or rental fee, or time that could be used for something else). It's dumb but occasionally lively, and the fights certainly have a lot more effort put into them than the average Canadian B-movie gets. It's on the wrong side of that line, sad to say, but one appreciates the effort." (more)
"Same funny detectives, different Chinatown."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "It's been a couple of years since it came out, but I seem to remember the first "Detective Chinatown" just being kind of conventionally wacky, not quite the over-the-top mess that its sequel turns out to be. Sure, part of that is a matter of how the move from Bangkok to New York lets American viewers like me see more clearly when it's doing some really tacky caricature work, but it really seems like there's nothing here that's not dialed up to 11, making a murder mystery play more like a party game, a step down from a slapstick comedy that had respected the genre." (more)

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